Phish – Festival 8
10/30-11/01/2009 – Empire Polo Fields: Indio, CA
Words/Photos/Videos by Justin
A few hours after the sun crept below the beautiful Santa Rosa Mountain range, a thick cloud of smoke hung above the Hunky Dory (named after David Bowie’s classic 1971 record) campground deep inside the Empire Polo Fields. With no open fires or BBQ’s allowed within the lush campground (declared the nicest out of all 8 campgrounds by Jamtopia.com) it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what was causing the pollution. Phish was in town for their first three day festival (not to mention their first festival west of Florida) and those fortunate enough to arrive a day early were wasting no time in getting the party started.
Early on, the plan was to invade Camp Genesis (based off the simple fact that Phil Collins is a douche), but between three Magic Johnson Jell-O Shots for $5 and all the cans of beer (and did I mention a cloud of smoke), the 8 of us were in no shape to walk a few miles to wage war against those who were unlucky enough to sleep there. Besides, the robust Police Officer from nearby Cathedral City had informed us that we were the rowdiest/craziest campground on site. I mean, would a police officer lie to us? I think not.
The first night was the hardest. With temperatures dipping into the mid 40’s, even my seven companions from Eastern Washington struggled to stay warm. One member of our crew hung a sign upon his tent looking for a female to help him “keep warm”, but his request was never fulfilled. After staying up well past my bedtime, I was awoken by what I assumed to be the worst sound one could wake up too (Journey blasting from the automobile of a neighbor a few spots down). However, I was sadly mistaken as I had a much uglier wake up call around the corner. It was just past 4:30 am when the first one started. I assumed it was just a wook being obnoxious with his mating call, but as my mind began to focus, I realized it was a Rooster. Heck, not one rooster, but a gaggle of them. I tried and tried to fall back asleep, but it was no use. Once a rooster has penetrated that wall of sleep, you are done for. While some card carrying members of PETA debated denouncing their beliefs of equal right for all creatures great and small by plotting to murder the foul fuckers’ feet away from our camps, I managed to drown them out the next two nights by making sure I was beyond loaded at bedtime.
As annoying as the rooster problem was, it could have been worse. I could have been one of the vendors inside of our camp ground. Towards the back, by the showers (by the way, who the fuck waits 90+ minutes for a shower at a Phish show, shame on you) we had our own mini strip mall. I can’t lie, I was (heck am) still shocked and appalled by the conditions the individuals who worked these booths were under. Cooking (or running a general store) from 7am till about 3am for four days straight is no easy task, especially considering that most of these folks did not own the businesses they were working for. With breaks coming during show times or an hour or two after clean up, but before set up, my mind can’t comprehend how one serves Cheese steak or Pizza for such tedious amounts of time. Yet these fine souls did and I have nothing but respect and praise for them (I know prices were high, but I sure hope you tipped em each time you were there). These individuals are the true heroes, and I thank them for all they did to ensure we had a wonderful weekend.
I knew our campground was S.O.L on being the record Phish picked for their musical costume when front man Trey Anastasio informed us from the stage Friday night that they were giving us a Halloween hint before the band launched into their 1980’s classic “David Bowie”. For as hard as I took the loss (because lets be honest, we ALL knew it was Exile on Main St. weeks ago), one gal took it much harder. Walking around early Saturday morning, local police had to clear the dance floor when one gal dropped. Now, keep in mind, they didn’t actually help remove the dead* hippie from the makeshift rave, they just drove their car up, flashed some lights and watched as her pals quickly removed her body
While I had never heard Mr. Bowie’s Hunky Dory record upon entering camp Thursday afternoon (did hear it via D Brown’s IPOD Friday afternoon), I now know I need to purchase it. It truly was a great place to spend a few days in the desert. Not too big like Electric Ladyland, not overrun with Wooks like Purple Rain. The size was just right, the grass was nice and green (on the ground and in your bong) with easy access to porta-potties and friendly faces around every corner. It was even a relatively close walk to the concert grounds; I mean what more can you ask for? With the exception of a few roosters, I already miss my home away from home.
*Note, I don’t think the gal actually died, she just took too much, too much man.
In case you missed part one of our (hopefully) 8 part series – you can read it here.